A mum looking for the daughter she gave up for adoption 50 years ago was stunned to find her child had already found her – on Facebook.
Pauline Pedder was just 14 when she got pregnant, causing a family rift that forced her to give the baby away.
For decades, she wondered what had become of the child so decided to approach ITV’s Long Lost Family, which specialises in reuniting relatives.
The show agreed to take on Pauline’s search – and it was presenter Davina McCall who later told her that not only had they found her daughter, Carol Whitehead, but she had been following her birth mother on social media for years.
Carol, 51, told how she decided to look into her family after the death of her adoptive mother.
With the help of a friend, she managed to find Pauline on Facebook but – afraid of rejection – decided to simply watch the status updates and pictures she shared.
Carol put any thoughts of meeting Pauline out of her mind but instead, she took a screenshot of her Facebook profile picture and saved it on her phone.
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The mum-of-two said: “My partner and friends tried to persuade me to contact her, but I didn’t know how she’d feel about me.
“Also, I could see from her Facebook pictures that she had kids and I didn’t know if she’d said anything to them about me.
“I didn’t want to cause problems for her by turning up out of the blue.
“I’d go on her Facebook page every few weeks. Sometimes she’d post pictures of things she was doing with her daughters so it felt a bit strange.
“I felt as though I should have been there, but seeing her pictures pacified me.
“I’d get on with my life, but whenever I saw an episode of Long Lost Family on television, it made me want to look more.”
Carol found Pauline after a throwaway remark to a friend.
She recalled: “We were out one night and we were talking about adoption. She said to me: ‘Do you want me to have a look for your mum?’
“I went home and went to bed and at 2am, she texted me with a link to Pauline’s Facebook page. It was that fast.
“I couldn’t believe it. I saw her picture and saw straight away that there was a resemblance. I was so excited, it took me ages to get back to sleep.
“The next day I had a proper look at her Facebook page and had a good old nose into her life.”
Pauline grew up with eight siblings in Huddersfield, West Yorks, and got pregnant when she was just 14.
Unable to confess to her parents, she confided in two close friends – but eventually the head teacher found out and expelled her.
He wrote a letter for Pauline to pass on to her parents but she never did.
Instead, she hid at her boyfriend’s house and pretended to go to school every day but her father confronted her after hearing rumours that one of his girls was pregnant.
Pauline recalled: “My dad said, ‘If you’re having a baby, you won’t be bringing the baby home here’.
“He forbade me to go out. I lost touch with my boyfriend and I was told by my dad that the baby was going to be adopted.”
Pauline’s older sister Carol offered to take her and the baby in, but their father said that if that happened, he wouldn’t speak to either of them again.
The family arranged for Pauline to go to a mother and baby unit where she gave birth to a girl she called Louise.
Pauline, then 15, spent a month at the home, feeding and changing her daughter and washing her clothes.
She said: “I bonded with her immediately. I came from a big family and had to fight for my mum and dad’s love.
“Mum was always having another baby but this little girl was my own baby to love.
“When my parents came to visit, my dad didn’t want to look at her.
“My mum held her and I tried talking my dad round but she said my dad was adamant – I was told I could say my goodbyes and then I had to leave the home for the day so her adoptive parents could come and collect her. I remember saying to her, ‘When you grow up, we might bump into each other in Woolworths and you’ll remember me and I’ll remember you’.”
All Pauline had to remind her of her daughter was a photograph taken while she was pregnant.
“I loved that picture, because it showed that she existed,” she said. “I didn’t dream it – it was reality.
“I always kept it with me and every now and then, I’d look at it and think of her.”
Pauline married when she was 16 and went on to have another four children – Tracie, 49, Steven, 48, Samantha, 46 and Stephanie, 39.
“I was happy, but I always felt there was someone missing,” she said.
“Carol had always been part of the family and we’ve always spoken about her as if she was there, even though she wasn’t.”
Carol, who lives in Huddersfield with her partner Rohan, had a happy childhood with her adoptive parents, Michael and Nora.
She first tried to find her birth mother when she was 18 but “came up against a brick wall”.
“The council told me they’d had a fire and all the adoption pages had been lost, so all I had was her name,” she said.
“My mum got really upset that I was searching so that was another reason not to do it, and then I got pregnant when I was 18 so I put it to one side.”
Pauline, a retired teaching assistant, who now lives with her second husband in Barnsley, had always assumed Carol’s new family would have been from a different part of the country.
But incredibly, their paths almost crossed on several occasions over the years.
“I used to live a 10-minute walk from where Carol lives,” she said. “I used to go to the doctor’s surgery on the road Carol lives on, so I would have driven past her house.”
Pauline’s brother also owns a paint company that supplied the car business run by Carol’s son. Carol said: “I realised the man had the same surname as Pauline and said to my son, ‘Speak to him and ask him’, but he never did. Men aren’t inquisitive like that!”
Carol also bumped into her sister Tracie while she was working in the discount store, Home Bargains.
But it wasn’t until Pauline applied to go on Long Lost Family that she was finally reunited with Carol.
Pauline, who presented her daughter with a bracelet symbolising her five children the first time they met as adults, said: “We clicked the minute we met. We just talk and talk.
“There’s no awkwardness – when one of us stops speaking, the other one starts. It’s as if we’ve always been part of each other’s lives.
“I went through a lot of heartache when I was younger, wondering where she was. Now, I feel my life is complete.”